Ah, the used book store... for fans of literature in any form, for poor college students who need a text for their English class, for people who want to look more intelligent than they really are... the used book store is Heaven on Earth. It is a garden of literary delights. Tall shelves, and narrow aisles packed with more books than could be read in a single lifetime. The air is thick with the smell of old paper, not rotting, but aging quietly. All of them cheap.
When picking out a book from a used book store, it is important to pay attention to its condition. For books in the best condition, try to find a used book store that takes in books disposed of by the local library. In Philadelphia, the Friends of The Free Library operate such a book store behind the main branch. Examine the book carefully, making sure the binding is intact and all the pages are there. This is especially important with paperbacks. Few used book stores would be dumb enough as to stock a book without all its pages, but check anyway.
If faced with a choice between two copies of the same book, it is advisable to choose a book with the better condition, as long as the price difference is not too great. Making tradeoffs between price and condition are common issues with used books.
Once you have decided on a book, check the inside front cover. Usually, there you will find the price. Alternately, the price will be on the first page as you open the book. If you cannot find a price, you can ask the person behind the counter. Hand the person your money, and you are off.
Some used book stores also sell used records and CDs. Some sell new books along with the old. Still others will host readings, or discussions on literature. These factors do not determine the quality of the used book store. A good used book store has simply a wide selection, helpful staff, and books in good condition. Take a book, or ten home, treasure it, and take care of it. Make one feel wanted.